Everyone realizes that starting up a localization program is not as simple as putting files into production; it is not just a flip you switch. A key element of any localization program proposal is the program onboarding plan. Whether the vendor is starting a new program from scratch or transitioning an existing program from internal or third-party teams, they need to understand how the vendor plans to take them from the status quo to all the benefits described in their proposed solution.
Regardless of the client’s industry or program size there are ten key elements which should be part of a standard onboarding plan.
1. Hold a thorough kickoff
In this live meeting with all stakeholders you should plan to go over the requirements in detail. What is the language strategy? What are the deliverables and file types? What are the product release cycles? How will communication happen? How will files be handed off? What are the priorities for each translation project (i.e., speed, quality)? What are the quality standards? Get as specific as you can. Cover all the detail that was not covered in the RFP stage. This is the stuff that becomes the program plan.
2. Review historical information
Ask your vendor to do a survey of any and all past project documentation, including summary reports, status reports, past SOWs, schedules, quality reports — anything available. From this they will be able to see patterns, approaches, successes and issues that you can avoid this time around.
3. Interview stakeholders
If multiple, dispersed stakeholders are involved; you can guess that no one has the same ideas about priorities and processes. Conduct interviews to find out what the specific divisional needs / goals are. You may identify possible conflict points and generate additional ideas on how to make the program work. Early on is the best time to get a handle on this.
4. Build a statement of work
If you have not done this already, then all the detail discovered in steps 1, 2 and 3 would roll up into this governing document. If you have done one already, review it to see whether parts of it should be changed.
5. Set up infrastructure or tools
If your program is comprised of regular drops, is considered Agile, if projects are large, if you have many stakeholders ordering jobs, if you want to maximize re-use, or if you simply are interested in quality, speed, or lower costs then you need some kind of tool requirement. In short, every localization program benefits from some kind of CAT (computer assisted translation) tool. Before starting project work, you need to assess tool needs and set up a tool-based process.
6. Establish linguistic foundations
Gather, assess or create translation memories, glossaries and style guides (the sum total of which are called “assets” and are discussed in detail here). These are the baseline references that will improve consistency, speed up work and reduce costs. These will grow over time, but you have to start somewhere.
7. Identify program risks
In this step you should find out what your vulnerabilities are and devise ways to avoid them. If you haven’t identified any risks in the previous steps, then I’d be surprised. At this stage, it’s time to sit down and write out a plan that details the challenges of the program, and how you will handle them. For example, do large projects sneak up on you? Then you need to document a way to handle this work and still meet quality expectations.
8. Establish quality targets
In this step you should mutually determine definitions of quality, quality processes and quality metrics. Doing this is very important because, ultimately, localization is about linguistic quality. If the translations are junk then all else fails. What are your quality standards? How will you achieve them? Work with your vendor to build a holistic linguistic quality program.
9. Begin production
While you can certainly process files before 1-8 above have been completed, it is in everyone’s best interest to get 1-8 completed as near to production start as possible.
10. Revisit, tweak, improve
Onboarding is not complete, ever. Clients and vendors ideally collaborate through the length of the relationship to evolve a program that will continue to meet everyone’s business goals.
Why so much work up front? Setting expectations and pinpointing details before the work begins can avoid lots of pain downstream. What other steps have you undertaken when setting up an outsourced localization program?